THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says it facilitated the release of 280 immigrants detained in the country’s prisons from May to August 2018.
By VENERANDA LANGA
In a recent report, the ZHRC indicates that the immigrant detainees were booked for various periods with some clocking up to five years in prison.
“After engaging government authorities to release detained immigrants from the country’s prisons, the ZHRC reduced the number of immigrant detainees from 280 in May to only 26 by the end of August 2018,” the report says.
“Of those that were released, some were granted asylum while others were deported to their countries of origin.”
ZHRC notes that some of the remaining foreigners now preferred to stay in Zimbabwe permanently, given that section 49 of the Constitution guaranteed every person the
right to personal liberty, including the right not to be deprived of liberty arbitrarily or without just cause.
“Detention beyond 48 hours, unless legally extended, is therefore, unconstitutional in Zimbabwe as provided for in section 50 of the Constitution,” the human rights body said.
In Zimbabwe, the time required for immigration officials to determine the status of an irregular immigrant is a maximum of 14 days as stipulated in section 8 (1) of the Immigration Act.
The ZHRC says the continued detention of the immigrants for lengthy periods violated the tenets of justice as provided in the Constitution, the Immigration Act, and other international human rights instruments that Zimbabwe is party to such as the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees.
In its report, the rights body also expressed concern over the conditions under which the refugees were detained, saying they did not satisfy the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being as provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25) as the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional
Services (ZPCS) faced challenges in the provision of food, clothing and other basic necessities.
“The majority of the 280 detained immigrants in Zimbabwe were at Harare Remand Prison and Chikurubi Maximum Prison. The three countries with the highest number of detainees at Harare Remand Prison were the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC with 44), Malawi (34), and Somalia (22).”
ZHRC has recommended that ZPCS should establish a holding centre with a holding capacity for 500 people.
It said the Foreign Affairs Ministry must assist the Immigration Department to facilitate road deportations.